The Blog

WaPo: Unions Outspending Corporations on Campaign Ads

The special interests you don't need protection from.

3:03 PM, Jul 7, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

To hear liberals tell it, the Citizens United decision unleashed a torrent of frightful, unregulated free political speech that will drown out the voices of regular citizens in favor of powerful and nefarious corporate forces.

I happen to be a fan of free speech. I'm not a fan of the alternative, which the government's lawyer in Citizens United admitted would allow the banning of books to "protect" the free speech of non-corporate entities.

The powerful, monied forces you don't hear as much about, which are also free to buy as much advertising as they wish post-Citizens United are labor unions. They don't corrupt the process, according to many liberals, because they spend a lot of money on the special interests of liberals, thereby drowing out the voices of only misguided regular people... like conservatives.

As former FEC commissioner Bradley Smith notes, campaign finance law has treated unions and corporations the same up until House Democrats passed the DISCLOSE Act with a giant carve-out for labor unions and the NRA this month.

The Daily Caller reported on the new rules in DISCLOSE:

The untold story is that Democrats assuaged organized labor’s early opposition to the bill by tailoring its provisions to eke out space for unions.

For example, restrictions on companies that received government bailouts during the financial crisis apply to businesses, but not unions: Under the DISCLOSE Act, General Motors can’t tell you who to vote for, but the United Auto Workers union can.

And consider the bill’s laborious record-keeping rules for certain types of donations. Corporations, unions, non-profits and 527 groups will, for the first time, be required to report donors who give more than $600 if they engage in “express” advocacy — urging voters to support one candidate or another by name.

Conveniently, as Republican staff on the House Administration Committee point out, average union dues in 2004 were $377 – below the $600 threshold.

All of this is meant to protect us, the unsophisticated voters, from a free-for-all of corporate free speech that would "distort" the electoral process. It's a good thing Democrats have trained their regulatory fire on the right folks:

Labor unions have dominated spending on independent campaign ads so far this election season, despite a recent Supreme Court decision that freed spending by corporations, a Washington Post analysis shows.

The findings are an indication that corporate money is not flooding into campaigns as many predicted would happen after the landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

So far this year, $24.7 million in independent spending has been reported to the Federal Election Commission, campaign filings show. Unions have spent $9.7 million (or 39 percent of the total), compared with $6.4 million (26 percent) spent by individuals and $3.4 million spent by corporations.

Chris Van Hollen illustrates the Democrats' willful blindness on this issue perfectly:

"We would be very pleasantly surprised if there's not a gusher of special interest money."

The Washington Post seems to warn that the inevitable, scary flood of corporate money is yet to come. If Democrats get their way on DISCLOSE, that money (read: political speech) will be hampered in a ways union special-interest money is not. Disclosure is a total farce if only one side has to do it. Campaign finance "reform" is almost always a partisan travesty designed to protect the incumbents who write reform bills. Give me the free-speech free-for-all over that any day, from unions and corporations alike.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers